Sheep to the Trend Shepherd

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We currently live in a world of fast fashion:  Cotton On, H&M, and Forever 21 seem to have sales everyday, fashion bloggers feature their latest finds, and Goodwill attendance has grown.  While I think it’s great that style is now in the hands of the everyman, I sincerely believe that people are being taken advantage of.  People assume that being into “fashion” means you’re blindly following the latest trends and becoming slaves to the constant sales. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

Before we get into my thoughts on “the fast fashion trend machine,” let’s take another look at the fast fashion world.  Thanks to this ever growing trend of “being stylish”, demand for clothes has increased greatly.  So much so that the real way to get customers now isn’t through quality of goods or the design, but through the prices.  Why spend $40 on a shirt at Banana Republic when you can get a shirt at Forever 21 for $12?  While it’s true that many of us are young people and don’t have the money to burn on clothes, this idea of cheap clothes doesn’t mean we have to just buy since things are on sale. Demand for style has just become simply a demand for clothes.

I’ve seen people sell their clothes many times on Instagram and Facebook, expressing how little they wore it (or lack thereof).  This is seldom due to size; people mainly end up buying clothes simply because they were on sale.  After realizing they don’t like it, they either give it away to Goodwill or other thrift stores or simply throw it away.  Whenever I go to Goodwill, I see pieces from contemporary stores with little or no wear, and it’s a huge waste of clothing.

Dan Trepanier on Articles of Style recently wrote an article detailing this true cost of disposable clothing.  His fictional (but completely relevant) story of how clothes are treated awakened my very thoughts on the matter. Before this, John Oliver* even touched on the subject:

As Oliver showed us, we’re not “stealing” from the fashion companies when we buy on sale, but effectively trivializing the already-terrible conditions behind the labor that went into our clothes.  Basically, the fashion industry has evolved from producing great items to hyping people up to spend lots of money on items that the companies paid next-to-nothing for.  Even though this is one of the most social justice-centered generations of all time, we see that these issues repeat over and over.  So what can we do about it?

We can always demand higher wages and ensure that quality improves, but we can also spark change individually.  If you haven’t noticed, Street x Sprezza isn’t about showcasing the latest trends in menswear; it’s about each person’s individual style and looking classic.  As I’ve said in the introduction, people assume that fashion is all about staying on top, but I believe that it’s staying true to yourself.  By changing your shopping patterns to be based on what you will actually wear, you can make a huge difference by showing these companies that you won’t be just a simple sheep following the rest of the herd. Just because you see a pair of joggers with a dropped-crotch or an oversized tee with a scooped collar on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it.  The more we buy these trendy “fast fashion” pieces, the more we perpetuate this issue.

Instead, try buying clothes you know that you’ll be wearing a year from now.  I understand that many of these items are for certain styles and clothes can be seasonal (sweaters, tweed pants, jackets, etc.) but I implore you to think hard before you purchase your clothes.  Are you snagging a good deal? Or are you just buying what everyone else is getting into at the moment?  Honestly, there is a reason why suits, ties, and button-up shirts have barely changed over the last 100 years.  These are items of classic style that will never fade into obscurity.  There are countless ways to wear these classic pieces and many of them are present right here on my blog!  Buying these types of clothes ensures wearability for the next couple of years.

In a previous article, I listed many ways for you to save money on clothes, or even find better deals.  But this doesn’t mean you have to buy everything that fits or everything that’s on sale.  This means you have to buy clothes that last  Back in the 1920s-1960s, people bought clothes and wore them until they fell apart.  Clothes of the “vintage times” were “made to last” and they certainly hold up.  That’s why people like Spencer and I are able to have these suits, hats, and ties that are 60-80 years old!  You don’t have to buy clothes from these eras, but please give vintage a chance.  Buying a true vintage leather jacket is better than buying a faux leather one that was made by people being paid less than illegal immigrants in our own country.

Now you might be saying, sure, suits are classic and vintage is cool (since it’s basically recycling clothes), but it’s not my style.  That’s okay, I’m not bagging on you for having your own tastes in fashion.  However, this is not a free pass to hop on all the trends.  Thanks to many LA and NYC-based designers, you can pay good money to get the clothes you want from companies that make the pieces right here on American soil, where laws can mostly ensure it’s made fairly.  But what if you aren’t able to drop wads of cash on these designer pieces? That’s where the idea of a tailor comes into the question.

Having a good tailor means that you can always change the clothes you buy to the way you want it.  As long as the main parts of your clothes fit, the rest can always be altered.  Heck you can even alter it yourself!  You can go to Goodwill and cut up a plain white tee shirt into the scoop collar you want. It’ll take some time, but it’s better than spending a sufficient amount of money at a high price brand or spending little on a “fast fashion industry machine”.

Basically, what I want to see is a world where people take pride in their clothes.  Instead of seeing your clothes as pieces of fabric that should be replaced every so often, look upon them as extensions of yourself.  You wouldn’t want to throw yourself away, would you?  By taking pride in our clothes, we essentially ensure that what ever we wear is meaningful to us.  It will make our purchase choices grounded in individualized, personal style rather than being akin to mere sheep slaved by the trendy shepherd.

Don’t get me wrong, trends are not entirely bad.  If you’re new to fashion or wanting to start wardrobe building, be sure to make your purchases work for a variety of styles instead of focusing on just one.  The key to a great wardrobe (like the one I have) is diversity.  This means the only true reason to give up a piece of clothing is size.  And when this happens, I believe that your clothes should be passed down to friends or relatives.  For a few years, items that I didn’t wear anymore simply sat in my closet until I decided one day to give them up.  However, Adam happened to be staying over, and for fun, I let him try on some of the clothes.  To my surprise, most of the pieces fit impeccably.  Now, Adam has expanded his wardrobe with quality items, with no cost to him or additional labor from sweatshops.  Pass on your personal style to others who can make it their own!

In the end, your unique style will stand out amongst the masses of “fashion forward” sheep of the 2010s.  As an example to others, you will show the people in your circle that style is a personal journey, filled with dedication to quality, both in the creation and labor behind the piece.  Plus, it will feel great to let others know that the jeans you bought five years ago are still serving you today, looking classic and sprezzy as ever.  My rant has come to an end, so I’ll simply conclude this post with my personal mantra:  dress to express, not impress.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

*the video is not owned by Street x Sprezza

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